What Say Ye about Christian Based Reform Programs?

What Say Ye about Christian Based Reform Programs? October 15, 2021

The New Yorker ran this deeply disturbing article a few days back about an organization known as Teen Challenge.

The Shadow Penal System for Struggling Kids: The Christian organization Teen Challenge, made up of more than a thousand centers, claims to reform troubled teens. But is it’s disciple more like abuse?”

The article hit too close to home for me. Several decades ago, when I was a Christian father, I drove my own “troubled teen,” several states away to stay at a Christian based facility. I’ll spare you the details since they are too personal, but saying it was one of the most traumatic experiences for my child and our family would be a severe understatement.

These kinds of behavior modification programs, especially religiously-based programs—should horrify any free-thinking rational parent. The primary issue with the religiously based programs is that they vilify children for manifesting otherwise natural human behaviors. / Image by Brigitte makes custom works from your photos, thanks a lot from Pixabay

What I can say is that at the time I thought I was doing the right thing. What’s the right way most Christian parents think is the proper way to raise a child? Quite simply, it is teaching a child to be a good Christian and using whatever disciplinary tactics are necessary to force a child to comply—even if this means suspending their rights and banishing them to an intermediary agency that will discipline them for you.

Sometimes this is a matter of convenience, like if a daughter gets pregnant and she just needs to disappear for nine months to save a parent the embarrassment. Sometimes it’s because a son exhibits too strong of an independent streak, and he needs to be taught how to conform. Sometimes it’s gay conversion therapy, a child becomes sexually attracted to the same sex and needs to be reprogrammed to find the opposite sex attractive. Many times, it’s because children get too involved with drugs or the criminal elements of society, and they need to be placed into a cleaner and more insulated environment.

For whatever reasons, the underlying justification for banishing a child is for the purpose of forcing a child to think and act according to the teachings of a religious belief system.

Each year, some fifty thousand adolescents in the U.S. are sent to a constellation of residential centers—wilderness programs, boot camps, behavior-modification facilities, and religious treatment courses—that promise to combat a broad array of unwanted behaviors.”

These kinds of behavior modification programs—especially religious based programs—should horrify any free-thinking rational parent. The primary issue with these programs is that they vilify children for manifesting otherwise natural human behaviors, and many of them administer harsh forms of physical and psychological punishment that will damage children for the rest of their lives.

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About Scott R Stahlecker
Scott Stahlecker is a former minister, a member of the Clergy Project, and writes for Thinkadelics about the joys and benefits of living as a freethinker. He is the author of the novel Blind Guides, Picking Wings Off Butterflies and How to Escape Religion Guilt Free. You can read more about the author here.

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7 responses to “What Say Ye about Christian Based Reform Programs?”

  1. Over and over and over again, word gets out that these religion-based programs are nothing but abuse in any combination of physical, emotional, sexual, mental. They’re absolutely horrifying places, but Christian parents think they’re bound to be great because of the religious aspect.

    This just popped into my head: years ago, I was in Holland for work and took an afternoon to visit the Anne Frank House (AnnFrankHuis) in Amsterdam. It was devastating; I cried all the way through it. The next day I had to leave, and I was accosted in the airport by an American woman who said she’d seen me the day before at the Anne Frank House. I was wearing a distinctive Fair Isle sweater as a jacket both days, so it was entirely possible she’d seen me.

    She then continued that if I was ever in Amsterdam again, I had to go to (someplace whose name I’ve forgotten). Why? “It’s Christian so it’s better!”

  2. Speaking from personal experience, I know in my situation that I felt better thinking the place I sent my child to for a few months was a Christian organization. Thinking this helped to ease some of the guilt. Since my son has special needs, I also had to seek assistance a number of times from secular facilities. The secular facilities were far better. The operate under a code of universal ethics and decency. The Christian place I utilized operated under the guise that when it came to discipline they could do just about anything because they were doing things in the name of God.

    When I was in the army in Frankfurt my wife and daughter took a trip to Amsterdam and the Anne Frank House. Visiting there is still on my bucket list.

  3. When I read the book, I was skeptical that a group of people could hide in a house and not be found instantly. Once you tour the house, you see how that was possible.

    Re: Christian businesses: In my area, kids can go to Christian daycares, then to Christian schools and Christian sports leagues, then to Christian colleges. It’s terrifying. One of my neighbors advertised herself as a “Christian” daycare when my kids were young. She was selling drugs out of the house while the kids were there, but she was “a good Christian” according to the neighbors who overlooked her drug issues.

  4. Anne Frank had such a tragic life.

    When is was leaving Christianity one of the main hurdles I had to face was the lack of justice and equality on earth. The idea that an omnipotent being would create a world filled with children living under circumstances like Anne Frank was “unbelievable” to me.

  5. The situation was unbelievably horrible and it was devastating to see the place first-hand instead of reading about it in a book.

    The book is an excellent demonstration of what scapegoating can do. It was obvious that 12-year-old Anne had done nothing wrong, and yet she was locked up and then found and killed just for her ancestry. I had to read it in school and we spent a couple of weeks discussing it as a class…is it required reading anymore? It should be.

    Sometime early in 2016, there was a meme of Angela Merkel in the White House, with Trump. She was looking infuriated and he was staring down at his hands–I don’t know what the actual conversation was, but in the meme, it went like this:

    Merkel: What did I tell you not to do?
    Trump: Hire Nazis.
    Merkel: And what did you do?
    Trump: Hire Nazis.

  6. What the Nazi soldiers did for Hitler, like taking the lives of innocent children, is one of those mysteries of humanity. It answers the question, just how evil can people become? And it raises other questions like how far will the GOP go to retain power? How far will Trump supporters go in supporting the big lie? How far will anti-maskers and vaxxers sink into madness?

  7. We’ve got a pretty good idea of how people can get. We’ve seen it in the USA over the past few years.

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